Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 30 minute script:  This script will be based on the outline.  70%
Semester Assessment Outline 3,000 words:  An outline original idea for a story.  30%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able:

  • To demonstrate and understanding of the underlying structure employed by a film or television script showing a systematic awareness of the practical mode in which they are working.
  • To demonstrate an understanding of the emotional effects that specific structural elements convey, and thus their significance to the whole of the script.
  • To understand the role of characters, characterisation and character archetypes within specific structures.
  • To demonstrate an ability to employ these concepts and techniques by creating a story outline within an established structure.
  • To create an effective script from their own outline demonstrating a sound understanding of the relevant practical techniques.


The course will involve reviewing the various structures available, and viewing various television programmes and films, as well as studying scripts, to analyse their underlying structure.

Lecture Topics
  1. The functions of effective story telling. Ideas and the need for structure. The three-act film structure. Reference to several popular Hollywood films including Chinatown, and the writing of Syd Field and Robert McKee.
  2. Working within the three-act structure: the controlling idea and its importance to a film's moment of truth; establishing a suitable character and its contrasting characterisation.
  3. The Hero's Journey structure. Use of archetypes within the hero's journey. Reference to classical literature (Homer's Odyssey), the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, and the writing of Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler.
  4. The Sequence Approach: the earliest method of film writing; and also the latest. Reference to classical Hollywood cinema, and the contemporary work of Charlie Kaufman.
  5. Drawing from diverse structural models: similarities and contrasts between structures; creating a unique structure. Using various structural elements to strengthen a story's narrative.
  6. An introduction to media formats. Dramatic formats. Defining terms: what is a dramatic format? "Open" vs. "closed" narrative forms. The historical one-off televised play: its theatrical (as opposed to televisual) origins. One-off television drama today: cinematic form. How one-offs differ from "long form" drama. The reasons behind the proliferation of serialised drama and soap. Flexi-narrative, from soap to serials. The role of the writer in the serial television machine: writing to, and allowing for creativity within, a storyline. Reference to British and Australian soaps, and British and American serials. Reference to Creeber, Serial Television
  7. Television comedy. Theories of comedy, or why we laugh: surprise, superiority, incongruity, ambivalence, tension, and filling in configurations. The essentials of humour: target, hostility, realism, exaggeration and emotion. The comedy audience; participants in the humour. An overview of comedy formats. The structure of jokes and standup routines; writing sketch comedy. Sitcom: balancing characters and structure. The similarities and contrasts between British and classic American sitcom. The new breed of American sitcom, with reference to Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Reference to the writing of Gene Perret and Jurgen Wolff.
  8. Spoofs, parodies, and send-ups in film and television. The 'mocumentary'. Reference to This is Spinal Tap and other films of Christopher Guest, The Day Today, Brass Eye, and other television and radio work of Christopher Morris, The Office. Other formats: focusing on the 'smaller' jobs in writing to formats for radio light entertainment, daytime television formats, religion and politics.
  9. Effective scriptwriting: description and dialogue.
  10. Reading and discussion of students' work.
  1. Outlining Techniques
  2. Scriptwriting

Brief description

Students will learn the skills necessary to select and apply structures suitable for various genres and styles of film and broadcast writing. The module introduces genre, which will be the primary focus of next semester's research, and provides students with skills they will need to outline and script their own creative projects in the third semester.


This module provides students with the rationale behind the use of an established story structure in creative scriptwriting, as well as an understanding of a range of structures used in the film and broadcast media. It tracks the cultural and social evolution of "Flexi-Narratives" and analyses their creative application today, primarily within soap, serial and comedy, but with an overview of other formats as well. The module will offer relevant guidance in writing to commonly established media formats, and explore where the opportunities lie for writers within the field. It will study the constraints placed upon the writer, and discuss the application of individual creativity within other people's guidelines. The lectures will examine different styles of story construction, and discuss the ways in which each serves the purposes of the genre to which it is applied.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Communication and presentation skills will actively be developed in the seminars, as students discuss films and television programmes in the light of the structures we have studied, and present their own work to the module co-ordinator and each other.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students are expected to drive their own learning and to develop their own unique creative approaches.
Information Technology Students will be required to make full use of the library facilities and master the computer-based script formats.
Problem solving This element is not assessed directly, however all scriptwriting involves problem solving: what type of character will best convey a particular theme? What plot devices will most effectively propel the story to the next plot point? The effectiveness with which the author has solved problems is evident in the quality of the finished product.
Research skills The outline and critical assessment will reflect the student's ability to read widely and to view television and cinema with a critical eye. They will have to apply this knowledge to make informed decisions about their own work.
Subject Specific Skills Students who wish to pursue careers as scriptwriters have the chance to further develop work from this module in semester three of the degree scheme. The finished product will then form their first spec script to present to agents and producers.
Team work Students will have the opportunity to access and give feedback on each other's work.

Reading List

General Text
Homer Odyssey Primo search
Recommended Text
Campbell, Joseph (1949) Hero with a Thousand Faces Princeton University Press Primo search Creeber, Glen (2004) Serial television BFI Publishing Primo search Field, Syd (1979) Screenplay Dell Primo search Field, Syd (1984) The Screenwriter's workbook Dell Primo search Friedmann, Julian (1995) How to Make Money Scriptwriting Boxtree Primo search McKee, Robert (1999) Story Methuen Primo search Perret, Gene (1990) Comedy Wrting Step by Step Samuel French Primo search Vogler, Christopher (1988) Successful Sitcom Writing St Martin's Press Primo search Bielby, D.B., and Bielby, W.T., (2002) Contexts 1 Hollywod Dreams, Harsh Realities: writing for film and television no.4, 21-47 Primo search
Multiple Copies In Hugh Owen
Davies, R., (2001) Developing Characters for Scriptwriting A & C Black Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7